SAN FRANCISCO - The Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education this week will consider asking voters to consider authorizing a larger-than-expected $7 billion general obligation bond measure in November.
The LAUSD, the nation's second-largest school district, estimates that it has a $60 billion backlog of capital needs. District officials have been discussing a $3.2 billion ballot measure for months, but the agenda for Thursday's board meeting includes a resolution asking voters to approve more than twice that amount.
"The bonds will further the board's policy of providing safe, healthy, modern school facilities," superintendent David L. Brewer 3d said in a report to the board. "Financial advisers have assured the district that with a $7 billion bond, the timing and amounts of new bonds can be structured so that there is no increase to the expected combined maximum tax rate."
School Board president Monica Garcia and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have been negotiating over the size of the bond measure for weeks, with the mayor pushing to make sure it included funding for charter schools, according to local press accounts. The Los Angeles Daily News last week reported that a Villaraigosa-sponsored poll showed that voters would approve a measure totaling as much as $10 billion.
Los Angeles voters have approved $13.6 billion of LAUSD GOs in four bond elections since 1997. The district has about $5.7 billion of capacity remaining under the four measures and plans to issue $950 million of the bonds this fall. The district's GOs are rated AA-minus by Standard & Poor's, Aa3 by Moody's Investors Service, and A-plus by Fitch Ratings.
Recent district polling data showed that 71% of voters would support another bond measure. The GO measure would requires approval from 55% of district voters to pass.
District officials have said they would like to take voters one large measure that will provide authorization for up to a decade's worth of construction, rather than continuing to fight bond elections every two or three years.
"If an election is not held for $7 billion in bond proceeds, the district will have greater difficulty meeting its more than $60 billion in capital needs and the next opportunity to request the support of voters to fund these significant needs would be in 2010," Brewer's report said.
The measure may have to compete with a host of multibillion-dollar bond and tax referendums before Los Angeles voters this fall. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is trying to pass a $40 billion sales tax hike. The Los Angeles Community College District is planning a $3.5 billion bond election. And the state is asking for $10 billion for a high-speed rail initiative, among other things.